KSM mine developers say they’ve found more gold

A glacier reflects in a naturally occurring pool of rusty, acidic water at the site of one of the KSM prospect’s planned open-pit mines. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/ CoastAlaska News).
A glacier reflects in a naturally occurring pool of rusty, acidic water at the site of one of the KSM prospect’s planned open-pit mines. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/ CoastAlaska News).

Developers of a controversial British Columbia mine say they’ve found more gold.

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That could increase the value of the Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell deposit and help attract investors.

The KSM is owned by Toronto-based Seabridge Gold. Spokesman Brent Murphy says summer drilling expanded the boundaries of a gold- and copper-rich deposit called Deep Kerr.

“We believe there’s more potential there,” Murphy said. “And I think the results from Deep Kerr have proven our geological hypothesis and from that, we’re quite excited.”

The KSM is about 30 miles east of the Southeast Alaska border and around 80 miles east of Wrangell. It’s controversial because it’s within the watersheds of two salmon-rich rivers that flow into the ocean within 50 miles of Ketchikan.

The project was expected to use open-pit mining. Murphy says finding more valuable deposits at depths of more than half a mile could change that scenario.

“Potentially it means more underground mining and less open pit and less waste rock and less environmental disturbance,” Murphy said.

Mine critics in Alaska say waste rock stored behind dams is a significant threat to fish and people downriver.

Murphy says more drilling is needed to identify the deposit’s full depth. Seabridge has not decided whether to continue exploration next summer.

The company has the main permits needed to build the mine. It’s still seeking investment partners for the more than $5 billion project.

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Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.